Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Bishop Edward Slattery and Ad Orientem

The New Liturgical Movement blog is reporting that Bishop Edward Slattery of the Diocese of Tulsa is restoring the celebration of mass ad orientem in his own cathedral church. Bishop Slattery speaks on the subject in his diocesan newspaper:
An innovation with unforeseen consequences

In the last 40 years, however, this shared orientation was lost; now the priest and the people have become accustomed to facing in opposite directions. The priest faces the people while the people face the priest, even though the Eucharistic Prayer is directed to the Father and not to the people.

This innovation was introduced after the Vatican Council, partly to help the people understand the liturgical action of the Mass by allowing them to see what was going on, and partly as an accommodation to contemporary culture where people who exercise authority are expected to face directly the people they serve, like a teacher sitting behind her desk. Unfortunately this change had a number of unforeseen and largely negative effects. First of all, it was a serious rupture with the Church’s ancient tradition. Secondly, it can give the appearance that the priest and the people were engaged in a conversation about God, rather than the worship of God. Thirdly, it places an inordinate importance on the personality of the celebrant by placing him on a kind of liturgical stage...

Recovering the sacred

Even before his election as the successor to St. Peter, Pope Benedict has been urging us to draw upon the ancient liturgical practice of the Church to recover a more authentic Catholic worship. For that reason, I have restored the venerable ad orientem position when I celebrate Mass at the Cathedral. This change ought not to be misconstrued as the Bishop “turning his back on the faithful,” as if I am being inconsiderate or hostile. Such an interpretation misses the point that, by facing in the same direction, the posture of the celebrant and the congregation make explicit the fact that we journey together to God. Priest and people are on this pilgrimage together.
Bravo to the bishop for doing this and also for making sure folks understand it. It is a difficult move, though, given that so many Catholics today have grown so used to the current orientation. It is a given that some will feel alienated by a move such a this. However, it is my belief that restoring ad orientem, when done prudently and pastorally, will go a long way to more fully recover the sense of the sacred in the divine liturgy. Above all, I am just happy that we have such a gift as the mass.


Anonymous said...

Pries facing people always seemed odd. If, he, as leader is to direct us in the way to go, it is only natural for us to face the same direction. Would you be comfortable with a bus driver who sat at the wheel, with his back to the windshiel (the traffic, and its hazards) in favor of the passengers.
Will all arrive safely?

Em Deus eu me apóio said...

Congratulations from Brazil. Please save the orthodox Liturgy.

Jan van Wezer said...

I wish the Dutch bishops would show the same wisdom & courage as Monsignor Slattery


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